Pete Buttigieg

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg delivers remarks at the veterans policy announcement in a ceremony in Rochester, N.H. on Nov. 11, 2019. 

RICHMOND — Pete Buttigieg has raised more money in individual donations from the commonwealth than any other candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has received nearly $950,000 from Virginians, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. That puts him ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden (about $750,000) and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont (less than $400,000).

The money certainly helps Buttigieg’s campaign, but it may not affect his chances much in Virginia, said Miles Coleman, the associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a blog published by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“He is doing generally — at the broad level — a very good job of raising money, you know. That may pay better dividends in states like Iowa,” Coleman said. He said he expects Biden to prevail in “most of the state, especially in the urban areas.”

In September, a statewide poll by the University of Mary Washington found that 23% of Virginia’s registered voters favored Biden. Warren and Sanders each had the support of 9% of voters. Then came U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California at 5% and Buttigieg at 4%.

High-profile donors

Buttigieg’s campaign gained the support of several high-profile Virginia Democrats. Albert Gore, an executive at Tesla and the son of former Vice President Al Gore, gave $5,800 to Buttigieg. Gore’s daughter-in-law, Brittany, a researcher at Georgetown University, contributed $5,600. U.S. Rep. Don Beyer of Arlington also donated $5,600.

Last spring, Megan Beyer, a consultant and journalist who is married to the congressman, gave $2,800 to Biden and $1,000 to U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, who has since dropped out of the presidential race. But in September, Megan Beyer donated $5,600 to Buttigieg as well.

Biden also has attracted noteworthy donations. Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, a vice president of Google, has given $4,700 to Biden and $5,500 to Gillibrand. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former first lady Dorothy McAuliffe each gave $3,800 to Biden and $500 to Amy Klobuchar, a U.S. senator from Minnesota.

Former FBI Director James Comey of McLean, Virginia, gave Klobuchar $2,700. His wife, Patrice Failor Comey, gave $2,810 to Klobuchar, $2,700 to Harris and $1,100 to Warren.

Other notable donors include Dick Patrick, president of the Washington Capitals professional hockey team. He gave $1,000 to John Delaney, a former Maryland congressman who is considered a longshot for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Boyd Tinsley, who plays violin and mandolin in the Dave Matthews Band, contributed $2,800 to former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who ended his presidential bid earlier this month. Stefan Lessard, the band’s bassist, gave Harris $1,050.

Sanders has received the most individual donations from Virginia — more than 8,400. Buttigieg and Warren each have drawn more than 5,000 contributions, and Biden, about 3,100.

President Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for re-election, has received more individual contributions than any of the Democrats since 2018: more than 20,000 donations totaling over $1.1 million.

Reluctant to discuss politics

Politics and money remain taboo subjects for many people. Asked what guided their decision to donate to a candidate, several contributors declined to comment.

Gerald Saunders, an instructor in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, has given Trump 25 donations totaling $1,107. “I’m not wanting to be ‘political’ other than supporting our president and don’t want to be interviewed about it,” he said.

Clifford Mumm, a former executive with the Bechtel engineering and construction firm who oversaw infrastructure repairs in Iraq after 9/11, has given to the most presidential candidates: $2,700 to Klobuchar, $2,700 to Biden, $2,800 to O’Rourke, $2,800 to Buttigieg and $4,300 to Marianne Williamson, an author and activist. His wife, Christine, also gave $500 to Williamson and $2,800 to Buttigieg.

“To be honest, I am not very interested in being interviewed. The contributions made by my wife and I were a financial stretch but intended to help get opposition candidates moving,” Clifford Mumm said.

“We chose candidates we thought could possibly succeed. Things have deteriorated further, and at this point, any candidate, right or left, who offers some semblance of stability and decency would be better than the current president.”

With contributions from other data journalism students at Virginia Commonwealth University

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that former Vice President Al Gore had contributed to Pete Buttigieg's campaign. It was Gore's son, Albert Gore, who made the contribution, not the former vice president. The Times regrets the error.

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